A Guide to Emotional Support Dogs

 Wednesday Jul 10,2019
By  Lancaster Puppies

We’ve all heard the saying that dogs are “man’s best friend,” and it’s no surprise that our canine companions can be loyal pals and family members. However, for individuals living with mental health conditions, this companionship is taken to a whole new level.

Dogs are capable of providing enormous levels of emotional support just by their nature, and having a loving pup in your corner makes the challenges in life just a little easier. Most dogs are eligible to become fully-fledged emotional support dogs - and can be an incredible asset in everyday life. Take a look to find out how! 

What Are Emotional Support Dogs?

Woman holding a Jack Russell Terrier

Emotional support dogs provide their owners with comfort and support through companionship and affection. However, a dog does not need to go through any specialized training to be an emotional support dog, which makes them different from service dogs, who must be professionally trained. Essentially, any dog can be an emotional support dog as long as its owner receives medical documentation that deems the emotional support dog as necessary. 

Who Can Qualify for an Emotional Support Dog?

Emotional support dogs mainly assist individuals who are being treated for mental health diagnoses such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, and more. In order for the pups to be eligible, people must provide a letter from a doctor or mental health professional that states why the dog is necessary for their wellbeing. 

For example, a patient with a specific phobia or panic disorder may seek an emotional support dog to ease stress in particular situations, like flying. However, they cannot officially use their own dog in those situations without first getting proper medical documentation.

A dog is not legally considered an emotional support dog and does not have protection under federal law, until obtaining a note from a medical professional.

Legal Rights for Emotional Support Dogs

As of now, emotional support dogs have two legal protections. First, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects individuals with emotional support dogs by allowing the dog to live with them regardless of no-pet policies. Individuals with emotional support dogs are also excluded from being charged pet deposits.

Second, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) allows emotional support animals to fly with their owners in the cabin of an aircraft. Sometimes, emotional support dog owners must present their medical documentation in order to receive these legal protections. 

Despite the common misconception, emotional support dogs are not service dogs and therefore do not have the same federal protection. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that “dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals…” 

So, while service dogs are legally allowed to accompany their owners into public areas like stores or restaurants, emotional support dogs are not. However, certain states have different, more specific laws on emotional support animals.

Popular Emotional Support Dog Breeds

While it’s true that any dog can be an emotional support dog, some breeds take to it more eagerly than others. Here are some of the most popular dog breeds that are used for comfort and emotional support.

Golden Retriever

It’s no surprise that this breed makes an awesome emotional support dog. Goldens are known for their loyalty, love, and energy, and they are very in tune with human emotions. These pups make excellent companions and can brighten one’s mood on even the dreariest of days.

Labrador Retriever

Close up of a Yorksire Terrier

Similar to Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers are some of the best companion dogs. They are very energetic, happy, and will encourage you to perk up when you’re having a bad day. They’re also incredibly smart, which makes them great emotional support dogs as well as service dogs.

Yorkshire Terrier

For those who prefer smaller dog breeds, Yorkies are a great choice when it comes to emotional support. While small, they have big hearts and are full of love and loyalty. They have a tendency to form very strong bonds with their owners, making them wonderful companions. They’re especially well-suited for smaller living spaces, like apartments, because of their tiny size.


The sensitivity and gentle nature of a Collie is second to none. They are very good at picking up on human emotions and can easily sense when their owner is feeling down. Collies are extremely devoted and full of love, which is why many individuals use them as emotional support dogs. 

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavaliers were bred to be human companions, making them awesome emotional support dogs. In fact, they are often referred to as the “Comforter Spaniel” because of their love to cuddle and be close to their owners. Don’t mistake their snuggly nature for laziness, though; this breed also loves to go outside and exercise!

At the end of the day, not much compares to the companionship of our canine friends! If you’re looking for a puppy to potentially become an emotional support dog, check out all of the different breeds we have at Lancaster Puppies!